CAMP HANSEN, OKINAWA, Japan -- For Sarah Bowers, seeing palm trees and coral reefs does not normally evoke images of the winter holidays.
“It is definitely much hotter,” said Bowers, a native of Fairbanks, Alaska. “It feels like summer. Other than having decorations up, it doesn’t feel like (the holidays) at all.”
Living in Okinawa, Sarah is thousands of miles away from friends and relatives. Her husband, SSgt. Theo Bowers, is from Valley Center, California, and is the intelligence chief with Combat Logistics Battalion 31, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. With other families they make the holidays feel like home for the Marines and sailors living abroad. This spirit was evident at this year’s CLB 31 holiday party on Dec. 17.
Santa Claus came to town to bring joy to the children, and several contests stoked friendly competition between the partygoers. In one game, participants did their best to keep straight faces while stuffing marshmallows in their mouths and reciting “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Following that, a showcase of holiday threads in an ugly-sweater contest had everyone in stitches. Finally, a tissue paper snowman-building contest wrapped-up the party.
Celebrating the holidays overseas is nothing new for Veronica Duran, from Los Angeles, but when her husband, Gunnery Sgt. Carlos Duran, is away, it is never easy. Being in the 31st MEU requires him to leave on deployments throughout the year.
“He has missed quite a few holidays and sometimes it’s hard on us especially now that we have kids,” said Veronica. “The kids see other families with their dads, and knowing their dad is gone on deployment makes it hard on them.”
Though the Marines and sailors and their families cannot make it snow in Okinawa, units like CLB 31 do their best to gather people together to celebrate the winter holidays
The Marines and sailors of CLB 31 are permanently assigned to the 31st MEU as members of the logistics combat element and are conducting pre-deployment preparations for the regularly-scheduled Spring Patrol of the Asia-Pacific region.